Hitchin Symphony Orchestra
Hitchin Symphony Orchestra's motto, 'Promoting Live Music', sums up our passion and goal as an orchestra. Bringing a high standard of symphonic concerts to Hitchin audiences, we enjoy a well-earned reputation for imaginative programming. We are especially pleased to offer a concert platform for local musicians – both orchestral players and soloists.
On 16 July 2022, as part of the Hitchin Festival, we are pleased to work once again with soloist Alison Eales – our very own principal clarinet – on Mozart’s iconic Concerto in A major. This will be accompanied by two of Hadyn’s ‘Paris’ symphonies, the stately ‘La Reine' and the clucking ‘La Poule’, along with Lili Boulanger’s highly contrasting Trois Morceaux, a trio of hazy yet pensive musical vignettes.
For our concert on 14 May 2022, we were delighted to work with local soprano Alison Langer on Mahler’s exquisite but often neglected Rückert-Lieder. Five of Friedrich Rückert’s poems are set to music for various contrasting orchestral forces as the poet contemplates the intersections of art, love and nature. The concert concluded with Brahms’ monumental Symphony No. 1, sometimes nicknamed ‘Beethoven’s Tenth’. It opened with Mahler’s ‘Blumine’ (‘floral’ or ‘flower’), which was originally the second movement of his own first symphony. The piece uses the Brahms last movement choral as its main theme (even in the same key), which tied the concert together.
At our Concert in Memory of Paul Adrian Rooke on 27 November 2021 we were delighted to welcome members of his family, including children, grandchildren and brother, in the audience. Boughton’s A Summer Night and Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with soloist Fenella Humphreys, were originally chosen by Paul for May 2020. To complete the revised programme we chose Paul’s own Saxophone Concerto, with soloist Alison Eales, and a work by a favourite composer of his, Elgar's ‘Enigma’ Variations. Paul gave so much time and energy to HSO and this concert sadly marked the end of an era. However, we must also note that November was Rowan Baker’s first concert with the orchestra, despite officially becoming HSO’s conductor in January 2020!
To find out more, please visit our Concerts page.
Paul Adrian Rooke (1945–2019)
Paul Adrian Rooke, Hitchin Symphony Orchestra's conductor of 35 years, died peacefully in the early hours of 19 November 2019. Paul's generosity to HSO knew no bounds and he will be greatly missed.
Paul was born in Peterborough and educated at Bishop’s Stortford College and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. After graduating with a Music (Honours) degree he spent 36 years teaching music in secondary schools, before retiring in 2002. He then established himself as a freelance musical originator and editor; transcribing and editing music by Elgar in particular. Paul was Chief Originator (musical typesetter) for The Elgar Complete Edition.
Paul conducted and composed since his student days. The list of his compositions includes various carols and solo songs, song-cycles, a String Trio, a Flute Concerto, a Saxophone Concerto and an opera. His two symphonies were given their premières by Hitchin Symphony Orchestra in November 2001 and 2006 – both of which were very favourably received. Panegyric, written in memory of John McCabe, was given its first performance in July 2016 and Sixty Years of Harmony, a song written for the diamond jubilee celebrations of Stevenage Male Voice Choir, was given its first and several successive performances in 2018.
In April 1984 Paul conducted a most successful production of the children’s opera The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by John McCabe. This was performed in the presence of the composer. The following September Paul became conductor of Hitchin Concert Orchestra. With them he performed a wide repertoire of music by 20th century English composers, plus adventurous modern works by Jeremy Aknai, Malcolm Arnold, Douglas Coombes, Gordon Crosse, Peter Maxwell Davies, George Lloyd, John McCabe, Edmund Rubbra, Robert Simpson, Martin Vishnik – and himself. Paul’s preference, while acknowledging readily the supreme masterpieces composed by the great Classical and Romantic composers, was always for British music of the nineteenth century and onward. This formed a large part of the orchestra’s repertoire under his direction.
Paul lived each of his 74 years to the maximum and in addition to composing, conducting and playing music he indulged in his other passions of cookery, watching the Posh play football, curries, and supporting his old school and university college. He was also a devoted and hugely loved Grandad, which brought him a lot of pleasure.
We are always keen to hear from instrumentalists looking to join an exciting and friendly orchestra in North Hertfordshire. At present we would particularly like to hear from cellists and double bass players looking to play with an orchestra.
For more information see the Join Us page.
Patrons of HSO
Our Patrons help support the continued development of the orchestra and this allows our audiences to enjoy new and exciting programmes and soloists. We are very grateful to the members of our Patrons scheme.
If you would like to join the scheme and get discounted concert tickets, please see the Support Us page.